Using NextBus on Your Smartphone

Below is another excerpt from the Webtech Wireless blog I’ve been working on. As a corporate blog, I try to balance clear concise professional writing with a personable informal tone often not possible in other corporate materials. So, the purpose of a blog is not merely to blast potential readers with the same material they’d find elsewhere, but rather, it’s an opportunity for a company to show  a more human face and reach out a real people.

Excerpt

Just as the adoption of the cell phone became universal a decade and a half ago, the smartphone is now a ubiquitous part of life for most urbanites. According to New York Times writer, Damon Darlin, “historians will remember the advent of the smartphone as something as important as the elevator, air conditioner and automobile.”

The implication for transit companies is clear: adopt an AVL solution or face irritation and disinterest from your ridership. Fortunately, transit authorities are reading the writing on the wall and many of them are choosing NextBus—for its reliability and simplicity.

“NextBus, a wonderful Web site that monitors the arrival of city buses in many big cities, is a godsend.”

While there is no official phone application for Nextbus, the simplicity of the NextBus website makes it easy to use on most smartphones.

To access NextBus using a smartphone:

  1. Using your smartphone’s web browser (such as Safari), access the NextBus website: www.nextbus.com.
  2. Choose the mobile version or the full-featured website.
  3. Select your location, your transit agency, your route, and then your stop.The most current prediction for the arrival time of the next vehicle is displayed.
  4. You also can add your stop info to your home screen so it will be instantly available.
  5. If a prediction is already displayed on your smartphone, simply push the ‘refresh’ link at the bottom of the page to get the most up to date information.

David Greer (Webtech Wireless)

Working to deadline, Jason provided valuable copy editing and feedback to a key customer report that was over thirty pages long. Jason’s changes provided the critical polishing that greatly improved the impression the prospect received with the final report.

How Nextbus Transit Technology Serves Riders

Webtech Wireless’ NextBus solution is now the transit technology that municipalities (from Montreal’s Société de transport de Laval to the Los Angeles Metro) rely on to provide accurate real-time public transportation information to millions of riders. Like other AVL solutions, NextBus uses global positioning system (GPS) tracking satellites to display transit vehicle locations in real-time. So what makes Nextbus’ particular solution so helpful?

Tackling the Problem

There is something of a perfect storm closing in on public transit systems these days. Rising fuel costs are driving many commuters to use public transit as their primary method of transportation, and with traffic variations, breakdowns, and other day-to-day problems leaving riders waiting at bus stops and train platforms, they’re increasingly turning to instant wireless communications (such as cellphones, PDAs, text messaging, etc.), to manage their lives. These riders rely on and expect reliable location-based services.

“The need for a predictive transit solution became apparent as a means to encourage ridership and streamline bus routing.”

Designing the Solution

To address these problems, NextBus was designed to “keep your customers on schedule even if their bus isn’t”. Using GPS tracking, NextBus estimates vehicle location information with a high degree of accuracy. Using PCs, landline phones, cell phones, or SMS (Text) messaging, riders get real-time travel information, which helps them decide whether catching the next bus is a sprint or leisurely stroll.

NextBus uses Google maps to show highly accurate route maps

Viewed through a web browser, NextBus uses Google maps to show highly accurate route maps

“NextBus helps riders make the best use of public and university transit.”

From the standpoint of transit authorities, deploying a transit AVL solution helps transit companies improve customer service, reduce accidents, reduce fuel and labor costs, improve operator performance, and improve street-level visibility for transit supervisors and planners.

In the New York Times writer, Joshua Brustein praises the recent deployment of NextBus to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Los Angeles began using NextBus for its entire bus system in May, the largest transit agency to do so.” Or, according to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority itself, the NextBus solution is “designed to help take the guesswork out of bus arrival and help you to get to your stop at the same time as your bus”.

Using NextBus on Your Smartphone

Just as the adoption of the cell phone became universal a decade and a half ago, the smartphone is now a ubiquitous part of life for most urbanites. According to New York Times writer, Damon Darlin, “historians will remember the advent of the smartphone as something as important as the elevator, air conditioner and automobile.”

The implication for transit companies is clear: adopt an AVL solution or face irritation and disinterest from your ridership. Fortunately, transit authorities are reading the writing on the wall and many of them are choosing NextBus—for its reliability and simplicity.

“NextBus, a wonderful Web site that monitors the arrival of city buses in many big cities, is a godsend.”

While there is no official phone application for Nextbus, the simplicity of the NextBus website makes it easy to use on most smartphones.

NextBus iPhone

NextBus viewed on an iPhone

To access NextBus using a smartphone:

  1. Using your smartphone’s web browser (such as Safari), access the NextBus website: www.nextbus.com.
  2. Choose the mobile version or the full-featured website.
  3. Select your location, your transit agency, your route, and then your stop.
    The most current prediction for the arrival time of the next vehicle is displayed.
  4. You also can add your stop info to your home screen so it will be instantly available.
  5. If a prediction is already displayed on your smartphone, simply push the ‘refresh’ link at the bottom of the page to get the most up to date information.

David Greer, Business Development Consultant (Webtech Wireless)

Thanks for all of your edits. I accepted them all and then this morning went through your comments one by one. It’s great to have a good editor looking over my shoulder.

Linda Solomon, Managing Editor – The Vancouver Observer

Jason,
You’ve outdone yourself.  Tears of joy in my eyes.  …  I love this story.  Really beautiful and quirky and unexpected.  It’s a huge story on the front page right now.

Pedal power and the builders of musical instruments in Vancouver

Last December, I developed an interest in Vancouver’s hidden music makers—the builders of musical instruments. I wrote a double-barrelled story about natural fibre horn maker, David Gowman, and harpsichord maker, Craig Tomlinson.  Now, let me tell you about the Furnaphone, and why “anything’s a potential instrument.”

Drummer Dan keeps his carbon footprint small getting to his next gig.

Drummer Dan keeps his carbon footprint small getting to his next gig.

With Bike to Work Week, Velopoloosa, and the In the House Festival all converging this weekend, the stage is set to highlight another fascinating musical instrument maker, Daniel Lunn.

Daniel is making a name for himself as a drummer (and guitarist) around town, but for someone who plays an instrument that is legendary for its lack of portability, it’s his mode of transportation that caught my attention—by bicycle.

» Read more..

Get your Brit on – at VanDusen Gardens

I was initially drawn to VanDusen Gardens this rainy Victoria Day week-end through a friend, and fellow musician. He posted a concert on Facebook of the Little Mountain Brass Band‘s forthcoming performance at Van Dusen Gardens, although the main event was the British Classic Car Show. Hosted by Western Driver, the car shows draws classic auto enthusiasts and gawkers of many stripes from around Vancouver, BC, and several US states to the south.

For $14, I got to hear a little bit of sweet band music and see more Morgans, Triumphs, Minis, Metropolitains, Bentleys, Rovers, and MGs as well as more brollys than I may ever need to see again. In fact, with the re-appearance of the rains, it gave me an added sense of Britishness to stiff-upper-lip it with the tweed set, hobnobbing with those who’d prefer to debate shades of hunter green than, say, head to the beach.

More pictures on Vancouver Observer site.

Music Review: Ederlezi strikes gypsy heart in Strathcona

I was at a Balkan music festival and was compelled to write a review (compelled and too stoked to sleep). Below is an excerpt from the review posted on the Vancouver Observer site.

Orkestar Slivovica

Orkestar Slivovica at the Russian Hall

Tonight, I attended part one of the two-part concert week-end known as Ederlezi – Balkan Brass Festival (6-7 May at the Russian Hall). Billed as a “Roma Spring holiday”, it features no fewer than three Balkan-style brass bands: Orkestar Zirkonium from Seattle, Brass Menazeri from San Francisco, and our own Orkestar Slivovica. There were also two lovely belly dance troupes, (and assorted vendors of Balkan eats and drinks), but the stars of the show are the brass bands.

The evening began with Orkestar Slivovica, which I thought was playing a little more up tempo than the last time I heard them at the Ukrainian Hall. Perhaps, they were intimidated by the quicker and sharper performances of their American counterparts. Gradually, they eased into their signature pelvic back beat and things began to heat up. That’s the thing about this music: if you’re not willing to let go with the hips, you’re not going to enjoy it. But they let go, and so did we—especially as the Šljivovica (Balkan plum brandy) started flowing.

Quadrant proves powerful tool during tsunami warnings

HELCO truck

HELCO truck

In addition to the Hawaii Electric Light Company’s (HELCO) success with reducing fuel consumption, using Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant location-based services (LBS) and telematics solutions (see previous Blog post), HELCO has also found Quadrant to be a necessary tool in times of crisis.

With its own home-grown volcanoes, the Hawaiian Islands are no strangers to nature’s fury. At the center of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii must also be prepared for dangers from its far-flung Ring of Fire neighbors—in the form of tsunamis.

Tsunami from Chile

The effectiveness of the Quadrant system in emergency situations was tested in February 2010 after the devastating 8.8 Mw earthquake in Chile, which put all of the Hawaiian Islands on tsunami alert. HELCO’s emergency plan was kicked into high gear, which meant immediately locating all of the company’s mobile resources and redistributing them to key points on the Island and HELCO installations, away from areas that could be vulnerable in a tsunami event. “It made such a difference to have that information available in real-time and on my computer so that I could easily direct our staff, and if needed, share that information with other emergency organizations,” said Kelvin Kohatsu, HELCO’s Fleet Administrator.

Fortunately, Hawaii was unaffected by the quake, but it was a good test of HELCO’s preparedness and the Quadrant system.

Quadrant GPS map showing HELCO truck locations on the Big Island of Hawaii

Quadrant GPS satellite image showing HELCO truck locations on the Big Island of Hawaii

Tsunami from Japan

On March 11, 2011, the tragic 9.1 Mw Sendai earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, again demonstrated Quadrant’s usefulness in times of crises. As Pacific Rim nations raced to secure their coastlines before the tsunami hit, Kelvin was able to use Quadrant GPS to allocate trucks and drivers, and to prepare to assist with evacuations and clean up on the Big Island.

With a tsunami bearing down on the Hawaiian Islands, Kelvin rushed to HELCO’s headquarters to check that fuel acquisition, standby contractors, dispatch, and equipment were available and ready. In addition, he hurried to ensure HELCO trucks located in the tsunami inundation zone were relocated to higher ground.

As Transportation & Maintenance Unit Leader for the Logistics Team at HELCO, he credited Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution (particularly Dispatch Management) as crucial in supplying needed vehicles to support Operations. “GPS remote vehicle management technology is invaluable in these situations,” he claimed, adding that “having a comprehensive GSP system allows us to instantly locate units and plan for dispatch of those resources. Other organizations would use two-way communications, if they’re operational.”

During tsunami alerts, the main evacuation route requisitions the Hilo International Airport runway

During tsunami alerts, the Hilo International Airport runway becomes a main evacuation route

This first operational period lasted until the tsunami warning was lifted, which came the following day. After the emergency period passed, HELCO transitioned to the recovery period, where it supported Operations in clearing and cleaning up debris and damage from the tsunami, which fortunately was minimal.

Quadrant has also been of use in more minor situations such as when a localized oil spill affected Hilo Harbor and HELCO vehicles and personnel were involved in containment and cleanup efforts.

Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) renews its service contract

Citing safety and savings as its primary reasons, Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) has decided to renew its Quadrant Enterprise service contact for an additional two years.

HELCO-SavingsWithin the first two years of deploying the Quadrant solution (2008-2009), HELCO realized a fuel savings of over 22,000 gallons (US). In 2010, HELCO saved an additional 18,000 gallons. Kelvin Kohatsu, HELCO Fleet Administrator, credits the impressive reduction and subsequent cost savings for their decision to renew the contract and attributes lower fuel costs to a combination of “GPS technology, driver training (operator knowledge), more fuel efficient vehicles, and improved dispatch management.”

HELCO, a subsidiary of HECO currently has Quadrant Locators in approximately 220 of its 240 vehicles and as part of the renewed service contract, will implement Job Management, using Garmin® in-vehicle navigation devices, which integrate fully with the Quadrant system. With the ability to enhance communication with drivers even more, it is expected that HELCO can expect even more dramatic savings over the next two years.